Let’s Hear It for New York!

Wow! New York is all its cracked up to be! At least from the perspective of a woman born and raised in Seattle, WA. When Alicia Keys sang “concrete jungle that dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t  do”, she wasn’t lying! Yeah! Let’s hear it for New York! I want to begin this post by thanking my wonderful son, Jerrell, who paid for my ticket to New York, my “play daughter” Alison Gazarek (and Mo, her cat), for welcoming me and opening her home to me during my stay, and my New York road dog, Sandra Killett who showed me as much of New York as she possibly could in two days!!

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Me and my friend Sandra in Times Square! I was like a kid in a candy store!

So my trip (March 10th-15th) started with a few songs to get me in the mood, a little Sinatra “Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I’ll make a brand new start of it New York, New York”. Then Empire State of Mind, it’s a real jam, but I can’t keep up with Jay-Z. The only thing I seem to remember is “3 card Marley” and “but I ain’t a crip tho”.  Oh well, I was still rocking to the beat.

Then I played a live version of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, and I gotta tell you, that song is THE ONE. Now don’t tell me I am going to lose my Sista card! I am not throwing any shade to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys! I am a mature woman, and I like the slow, classy sound of Billy Joel as he sings about New York. He is giving you the Grayline tour, while Jay-Z is giving the Hop On Hop Off tour.

Check out Billy Joel’s live version here:

Now groove to the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys Empire State of Mind here:

So now after grooving to the sounds of native New Yorkers, I am ready to go to “the city that never sleeps.” The TSA line at SeaTac was outrageously long and it took me about fifty minutes to get through security. I am sure some folks missed their flights and there were many unhappy travelers. It was truly a nightmare, but thankfully I got through security and to the gate just as boarding began. My flight to New York started off bumpy. Not cool! My seat mate assured me it was fine, and that it had been very windy in the area prior to our takeoff.  She told me, “if you need to grab onto me, feel free”. How sweet!  Nancy and Maureen were taking a girls trip to Paris, so New York was just a five hour layover for them. They were great seatmates.  As the plane made its descent into New York all you could see for miles on end was a sea of brown buildings. I think I had visions of seeing a gorgeous view of the Statue of liberty as we landed, but that was not my reality this time.

JFK airport was huge and I am certain I walked at least two miles before I finally made it to the baggage claim. The airport just went on and on. Luckily, my luggage was right on the gurney as soon as I arrived at my claim check. The timing was great. I now had to face my biggest fear, hailing a taxi.  I had read one article that said “everyone is waiting for a taxi at JFK airport!”  I calmly headed to the taxi waiting area just across the street. A pleasant young man greeted me and asked where I was going. He told me the next taxi coming along would be mine. Bam! Total waiting time…4.5 seconds. I was feeling real good now! On the way to my hotel I spoke briefly to my taxi cab driver, who was from Haiti. He was a quiet, friendly man. We reached my hotel in Manhattan in about 50 minutes. Total cost 70.00.  I was in New York!!

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I am clearly pleased with my room at the Iroquois Hotel in Manhattan. Just a few blocks from all the excitement of Times Square. This is the perfect boutique hotel (small and classy) for a first trip to New York.  It was neat & cozy, the bathroom was lovely, and I had a fire escape outside my window, so I felt like I was in an episode of Law & Order. I was greeted in Times Square by “the Pope” at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, so of course I had the blessing of having a fabulous time in New York City (smile).

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Me and Sandra with Pope Francis, Madame Tussaud’s NYC

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

This place is rocking at all hours of the day and night. There is just no shortage of things to do and see (and eat). No wonder it’s called “The city that never sleeps”.  The next several photos include Times Square at night, Rockefeller Center, New York subway (and subway benches), Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge (with a glimpse of Lady Liberty),  and the 911 Memorial site and reflecting pool.  You might get lucky and catch a jazz band playing in the subway or get a chance to hear a talented or starving spoken word artist perform right next to you while riding the subway.  Expect the unexpected, and don’t be scared! During one subway ride a young man near me exclaimed, “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, no need to be afraid (uh okay), I am going to perform a piece for you…” I smiled as the young man eloquently delivered a nicely arranged spoken word piece.  Of course, everyone expects a monetary show of your appreciation for their talent. Even in Times Square, there are no shortage of characters dressed up willing to take pictures with you for any donation. Take your chances when handing out cash, but be careful. Like my husband always says, “keep your head on a swivel”!

Times Square at night!

Times Square at night!

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

 

Top of the Rock (see the Empire State Building in the background)

Top of the Rock (see the Empire State Building in the background)

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Getting ready to take the New York subway!

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Central Park on a beautiful day.

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Shawnie in Central Park

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Heading to Brooklyn (look at that sky!)

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Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

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A glimpse of the Statue of Liberty! That is as close as I got!

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In front of The Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem (Shout out to Marcus Samuelson, owner & my favorite chef on “Chopped”, the reality t.v. show)

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Me and Alison after seeing The Color Purple on Broadway! It was a fabulous night! If you don’t know who Cynthia Erivo is, google this beautiful, powerful sister with a voice. She was AMAZING in the lead role as Celie.  Jennifer Hudson was wonderful as Shug. Peep this you-tube:

 

 

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Standing in front of the ad for “Hamilton” on Broadway

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One of the reflecting pools at the 911 Memorial Site

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

This is Mo, Alison's cute, but naughty cat. He tried to use my new luggage for a scratching post!

This is Mo, Alison’s cute, but naughty cat. He tried to use my new luggage for a scratching post!

There is so much to do and see in New York, but as an African American I really felt love for Harlem.  Our history is alive in Harlem and it evoked a great sense of pride being there.   I was able to visit the famous Apollo Theater, The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem Hospital (where Malcolm X was taken the night he was assassinated),  New York Amsterdam News (one of New York’s largest and most influential Black-owned and operated business institutions), the statue of Adam Clayton Powell (he represented Harlem in Congress from 1945 -1970), and the Red Rooster restaurant, owned by “Chopped” reality television chef Marcus Samuelson. We were lucky enough to get a table for three for dinner on a Friday night, and this is THE restaurant folks are talking about in Harlem! Remember, “the Pope” had blessed me to have a good time.

The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Statue in Harlem

The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Statue in Harlem

Rubbing a replica of the good luck stump at The Apollo Theater.

Rubbing a replica of the good luck stump at The Apollo Theater.

Amsterdam News

Amsterdam News

 

Schomberg Center

Schomberg Center

 

Schomberg Center honoring American Negro Theatre

Schomberg Center honoring American Negro Theatre

Another highlight was visiting the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan. This was a place that brought tears to my eyes. You cannot experience this place without feeling deep emotion for what our ancestors went through.  I can still feel the emotion as I write about this experience.

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

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“In 1991 during construction of a General Services Administration office building in Lower Manhattan, graves were discovered 24 feet below ground, and when those remains led to the discovery of hundreds of other bodies in the same area, and when it was determined that these were black New Yorkers interred in what a 1755 map calls the “Negros Burial Ground,” the earth seemed to shake from more than the machinery. The evidence created a conceptual quake, transforming how New York history is understood and how black New Yorkers connect to their past. This discovery offered the first large scale traces of black American experience in this region. In all 419 bodies were discovered – giving a clue to how many others still lie under the foundations of Lower Manhattan. (Estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 20,000).”  Edward Rothstein, New York Times, February 25, 2010

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

You might be wondering ” but what about the food?” There is no shortage of food and great places to eat.  That was not my priority, however! There is fabulous pizza everywhere, hot dogs on every corner, Sylvia’s in Harlem, Peaches in Brooklyn (wonderful food and atmosphere) and Dallas BBQ in Times Square.  One of the best things I ate in New York, hands down, was fresh roasted toffee nuts, which were about two dollars. Delicious!! I had pizza twice, and here is a pic of my selections:

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With Alison my last night in New York, Columbus Circle Plaza

With Alison my last night in New York, Columbus Circle Plaza

There you have it! A sweet trip to New York City that I will never forget!  On my last day, I was brave enough to catch the subway (alone) to Times Square. You should have seen me counting EVERY stop and marking it off my notes. On my last night, I met Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF at The Shops at Columbus Circle. When I stopped her and said, “Aren’t you Oprah’s best friend,” she smiled and said, “You have a really good eye.”  Alison immediately started texting her friends, while I excitedly explained how my husband Gregory always says I can “will people into my presence”.  As I close this post, my mind wanders back to Billy Joel’s song New York State of Mind. What is a “New York State of Mind?’ Is it the charge of electricity you get walking through Times Square? Yes! Is it the feeling that you really can find something to do at any time of the day or night? Yes! Is it the fashion, the shopping, the neon lights, the department stores on steroids? Yes! Is it the emotional rollercoaster of seeing the revitalized One World Trade Center and the 911 Memorial? Yes. Is it the pride you feel in Harlem at the Apollo or the spell you fall under when you see a Broadway play? Yes. A New York State of Mind is all that and so much more, and I hope to experience it again real soon.

 

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